Ich wars nicht!

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Summary for English readers: Yes, I was in Hamburg on that day, but I want to make it clear that I'm perfectly innocent.
Ich war zwar an dem Tag in Hamburg, aber ich möchte festhalten, dass ich mit dieser Sache nichts zu tun hatte.

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Potato goulash

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Lately, I've become somewhat addicted to potato goulash. I've loved the dish for a long time (had it a lot when I was a child), but my own attempts at cooking it never totally satisfied me. Then I had a look at the Plachutta/Wagner cookbook [English edition] [German edition] (very much recommended if you want to dive into Austrian cuisine!), and it prompted me to change three things about my recipe. The result turned out to be perfectly delicious.

In case you were wondering: yes, the picture accurately represents the actual colour of the meal.

Here is the recipe:

Ten tips to make sure your chili plants grow

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  1. Provide a sufficiently large flower pot. The minimum is 17-19cm (about 7").
  2. Make sure the plant is not exposed to temperatures below 10°C (50F).
  3. Don't keep the plant too moist - water only if earth is very dry or if plant looks exhausted.
  4. Put plant in a bright, warm spot. Direct sunlight is advised.
  5. Don't use fertilizer - if you do, the plant will grow lots of branches and leaves, but no chilis.
  6. Remove the first blossom or chili. This will multiply your harvest.
  7. If there are blossoms, but no chilis, use a cotton swab to pollinate them.
  8. If the plant has aphids, put the plant outside and hope for ladybirds, carpenter bees or ichneumon wasps.
  9. If the plant has lots of aphids, shower it with lukewarm water.
  10. If the plant has lots of aphids and lots of black larvae, rejoice, for the ladybirds have arrived.

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(plants in office, awaiting collection)

Still plenty of chili plants where these came from, contact me if you want some.

Bibimbap, or The art of visual frustration

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I guess the Korean dish Bibimbap must be one of the visually most frustrating foods in existence. Essentially, what you do is cook rice, sauté some vegetables, stir fry some meat and then arrange everything in a bowl.

Immediately after serving, Bibimbap looks something like this:

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However, immediately before eating, Bibimbap looks like this:

Dietary recommendation

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If you are in Munich and are trying to lose weight, you should probably not enter this restaurant.

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(Further investigation has revealed that the name of the restaurant is not a warning for weight-conscious customers, but instead the Cantonese pronunciation of the Chinese letters below, which read "Wan Fa Jiulou", meaning "restaurant of the ten-thousand accomplishments" or "restaurant of infinite riches". - Thx to the colleagues from the East Asian Studies Library and @kattebelletje on Twitter)

Greek eggplant salad (Melitzanosalata)

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I've come a step closer to finding out why so few Greek restaurants in Vienna have eggplant salad on the menu, and why, if they do, it's usually not cheap: Three eggplants and 80 minutes' work don't even fill a small tupperware container. However, the result is so yummy that you may want to give it a try.

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Here's the recipe:

Easter is approaching

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And the children's wear shop next door is trying to kill me with cuteness.

Beim Laden mit der Maus

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Summary for English readers: The "Mouse show" is a popular German children's programme that has been broadcast since the 1970s. A shop in Cologne sells tons of merchandise. In the background: Cologne cathedral.
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In Köln konnte ich natürlich nicht umhin, den Maus-Devotionalienshop in der Breiten Straße zu besuchen und herauszufinden, ob es da irgendwelche netten Dinge gibt. Leider waren die Preise etwas happiger als erwartet.


Sowas hätte ich auch gerne

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Summary for English readers: I'd like to have one of those too.
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Klingt so, als ob ich mich da drinnen von dem "Happy Picnic" von gestern erholen könnte.

Alles gut überstanden

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Summary for English readers: No bad surprises on my birthday. No clownfish, ants, ponies or yetis.
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Keine Clownfische, Ameisen, Ponys oder Yetis. War ein sehr angenehmer Geburtstag.

Quelle: Melanie Watt, Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party (französische Ausgabe).

Happy?

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Germanwings calls this a "Happy Picnic". It didn't make me particularly happy. It also didn't include any kind of toy. Nor was there any meadow or even lawn nearby. The bread was kind of stale. The passengers who had forgotten to print out the letter-sized voucher didn't get one.

Please tell us your name

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Spammers and phishers never cease to amaze me, and it seems that they provide some valuable insight into the psyche of the people they are targetting. Consider for example this mail, which I received today:

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They first address me by my full name, and then they tell me that all they need to send me money is my first name and surname, no additional information required.

I'm assuming that the web page I'm supposed to visit has been designed to install a virus on my computer, but the interesting questions here are:

  • How many people will actually click on the link?
  • Is the fact that the mail is asking to provide information that the sender already knows an oversight,
  • or has it been specifically designed that way because they are assuming that people who don't realize that they're being tricked are also less likely to have anti-virus software installed?
Update: Apparently they're not installing a Trojan, but simply offering a dubious job. Unser täglich Spam has details.

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

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steve.jpgWhen I first switched on an Apple Macintosh computer in 1987, the first thing I saw was a tiny icon of a computer smiling at me. The "Happy Mac" eventually disapeared fifteen years later, but I still see it as an (if you excuse the pun) iconic example of Steve Jobs' philosophy of what computing was supposed to be about.

You could instantly see that Jobs was always emotionally involved in what Apple was doing. His keynotes weren't your average business presentations, they were events that everybody looked forward to. When he introduced a new product that he was excited about, like the iPhone, his eyes sparkled, and his enthusiasm translated to everybody in the room. Even when miscommunication happened (as during the early stages of the iPhone 4 release), it seemed to be because he was so emotionally connected to his products.

Jobs didn't just market products emotionally, he had them designed so that they would appeal to users in an emotional way. From the Happy Mac to the first bondi-blue iMac, to the first version of OS X that looked "so delicious you want to lick it". It's probably why the products create such strong emotional responses and why discussions between Apple users and Apple haters tend to heat up to ridiculous proportions.

Under Jobs' guidance, the company placed priority on preventing anything that could disrupt the emotional interaction between user and computer; this is the main reason why Apple's interface guidelines and the restrictions the company places on developers are so strict it's legendary. Still, the result speaks for itself: if people talk about hitting a computer or throwing it out the window, they never talk about an Apple Mac.

Gustav Mahler 1860-1911

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MA047.jpgThis day 100 years ago, on May 18th, 1911, the Austrian composer and conductor Gustav Mahler died at age 50 of heart disease.

During his lifetime, Mahler was both famous and infamous as one of the most meticulous and demanding conductors of his time; when he received the prestigious post as musical director of the Vienna Opera house in 1897, he set about to turn it into one of the leading opera houses in the world; in fact, much of the reputation it has today still goes back to Mahler. His performances of Wagner, Mozart and Beethoven's Fidelio were considered revolutionary at the time. When an anti-Semitic press campaign (Mahler was born a Jew, but converted to Catholicism early on) led to his resignation in 1907, Mahler took on posts at the Met and with the New York Philharmonic.

As a composer, Mahler continued the symphonic tradition of Brahms and Bruckner, paving the way for the musical modernism of Shostakovich, Webern, or Schönberg. However, during his lifetime his symphonies were met with little acclaim, and after his death they all but disappeared from the repertoire, until their grandeur was rediscovered in the 1960s. Today, his symphonies are considered milestones of early 20th century music.

Something of an interesting sidenote, which I noticed some time back, is that Mahler's symphonic music also seems to have had quite an influence on film scores. Take for example the opening to his first symphony, which seems rather close to the original "Star Trek" theme. Or the beginning of the sixth symphony, which appears to have been an inspiration to the "Star Wars" Darth Vader theme. And there's this section, also from the sixth, which a friend of mine noticed was uncannily similar to the "Indiana Jones" theme.

Whether the influence is actually true or merely imagined, there is no doubt that Mahler's expansive soundscapes with their intense emotionality have inspired countless composers and listeners since his death and that he remains one of the most important composers of the 20th century.

Recommended listening:

Song clusters

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A team of scientists tried to figure out if the perception that certain countries vote for each other at the Eurovision Song Contest is actually true. They fed all available voting data into a computer, and it turned out that there are indeed six clusters of countries with similar musical tastes or other kinds of allegiances.

The results also proved once and for all what we always kind of suspected: that Austria is really located in the Balkans.

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